Sentinel-Echo.com

Opinion

August 8, 2013

Publisher's Notebook: City undertakes another money grab

(Continued)

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —

Rudder also said he talked with a few mayors from around the area who agreed with London’s idea of establishing its own tourism commission. But for what reason? The Somerset mayor was openly hostile and said his city had been “excluded” from participating in the joint city-county tourism commission, so they started their own. London can’t say it’s been excluded as the reason it wants to go it alone.

So what is the main reason London wants a divorce? Sources indicate that while everything appears all lovey-dovey on the surface, friction has developed over a proposed restaurant tax, and to some extent, competition between The Party Barn and the London Community Center.

The city has the option to pass a restaurant tax to help fund tourism-related activities. It’s been bandied about for years. Under the current setup, all the revenue would go to the London-Laurel Tourism Commission, with a percentage going to London at an agreed-upon rate. That’s creating a conflict.

The tourism commission has always maintained it would split the restaurant tax 50-50 with the city. Rudder and other council members apparently thought a 75-25 split in the city’s favor was a better scenario.

Now, that potential disagreement is entirely moot because London will keep 100 percent of the proposed restaurant tax for its own tourism and convention commission. The city has a wellness park and other tourism-related activities it is trying to develop with dwindling revenues.

The London-Laurel County Tourism Commission has spent millions of dollars, from federal and state grants and its own motel-tax revenues, to develop Heritage Hills, commonly referred to as the Party Barn. It was initially supposed to be a civil war museum, but has basically turned into a gathering place that competes for weddings, meetings and other events directly with the London Community Center. Another potential for conflict.

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